There is something to be said about meeting people online for the first time. I am a massive believer in personal and physical connections — I am a hugger, sue me — yet I also find that these days, more than ever, the “new normal” has pushed us to find connections even when miles apart.
As a fellow lover of dungarees, I knew as soon as I met Emma I was in for a great ride.
Despite getting slightly carried away with our love of coffee — another pleasant surprise — the reason I had a chat with Emma was to get a true understanding of the trailblazer behind Mamalina, the slow and sustainable parenting site.
The website focuses on living and parenting slowly and sustainably with a big dose of yoga, cooking, travel, and much more: “we try to live as low waste and sustainably as possible, in various different ways.”
As a seasoned creative, Emma started her channel first and jumped on Instagram only more recently as she started documenting her first pregnancy (she now has three sons): “I started with YouTube, and then did a blog, and then did Instagram. I think I did it in the opposite order to how most people do it!”
Overall, creating consistency in her schedule has helped her massively, plus a few cheeky hacks along the way, including making the most of the time that her sons are asleep.
“I really like to wake up early before everybody else and just have like an hour on my desk. I just find it so productive in the morning — at night I can’t do anything! I can just sit and get ahead of the day”
It all started with nappies
Her passion for low-waste living sprung up when she was at an antenatal class, during a conversation about nappies: “they teach you how to put nappies on a child or baby, and the teacher at the end shoehorned in this little bit about reusable nappies” that was a proverbial lightbulb moment for Emma as she recalls.
“In my head, I thought…that makes loads of sense and that sounds really interesting to me. I went up to her at the end and I started talking to her about it. It was through the environmental impact of nappies that I first became interested in this new kind of parenting. A bit differently I guess, a bit more sustainably.”
When it comes to a more sustainable approach to family life, a big hurdle is our relationship with, well, stuff. When you have a new baby there’s this expectation that you need to get so many new things, you know, new clothes, new bed stuff, new furniture, new buggy, new pram new stretch mark cream — there’s so much stuff associated with being a new mom.
As you fall pregnant, you supposedly have to get new maternity clothes, yet there is so much you already own you can truly use: “I think I bought one or two pairs of trousers and they’ve lasted me through all three pregnancies and everything else I just wore what I had. Baggy tops or leggings, or even sometimes something that belonged to my husband.”
So much of what you already own is absolutely fine — you don’t need a specific new piece of furniture to change your baby or a special chest of drawers that acts like a baby change table.
Talking about things, Emma outlines how there’s everything from charity shops to baby clothes rental systems where you can rent out clothes for six months to 12 months and then you return them and you get a new bundle of clothes.
“Most of my kids’ favourite clothes are the ones that my mum kept from when we were younger when we were babies!”
The truth behind prioritising self-care
What about prioritising self-care as a mother?
The term self-care is a loaded one as it means something different for everyone, depending on circumstances, personality, and overall health.
As someone who struggles to prioritise brushing her hair every morning, Emma is not here to preach about self-care, yet her approach is very honest and highly relatable:
“I’m somebody that does not crave that as much, there are women who really need time alone or moms that need time without their kids — yet, I do enjoy my work, and I find it strangely energising. The only thing I’d say that I do are pockets of exercise, like a yoga class, or a run.”
Being able to balance business and family life is also something Emma has been working on throughout the evolution of her family life: “I’ve brought our kids up to be pretty independent, so I would set them up with stuff to do. They’re pretty good, just hanging out and doing their own thing, which means I can tick off small tasks like doing an Instagram post or replying to some comments” which she tries not to do in front of them. Instead, she leaves them to it and works next door.
A new way to celebrate achievements
Yet, with homeschooling, spending time together 24/7, and adapting to a new normal, every family has seen a shift in the way we approach celebrations.
Celebrations bring joy, connection, and ritual, and help us raise up those that we love and allow us to see them for one whole day. It’s a special thing.
Emma points out as she’s seen a rise in a more conscious way of celebrating “one that doesn’t involve lots of waste, bulging beanbags, and leftover food or unwanted presents. I think that that resonates with people especially now being in lockdown when they haven’t been able to celebrate in such blown up ways.”
It’s time to move (back) to a time when a simple game of pass the parcel and a homemade cake is what makes a day special:
“I think people are wanting to return to kind of a simpler, maybe, more nostalgic way of being and celebrating.”
Her relationship with her kids has surely strengthened, especially since spending time with them homeschooling and at home “each night even each day but like each hour is so different. So many emotions are happening all the time so one minute you might go ‘oh my gosh I feel like I want them to be at home forever’. Other moments, you’re like ‘okay, great, they can go back to school now’.”
When it comes to herself and her relationship with her kids and family, it’s clear that honest and open communication is at the forefront of the way she is looking to raise her children “I think I’ve just become even more in touch with their needs, and where I can do better as a mum”.
Being able to educate her children about a low waste and more sustainable life also proves her commitment to honest communication with them, treating them as ‘mini-adults’
“We don’t give children enough credit for how much they can absorb and learn.”